Dec 102014
 

MIT professor Andrea Louise Campbell writes an essay for Vox describing how Medicaid forces people with disabilities to live in poverty in order to receive health coverage. She focuses on California’s Medicaid system (Medi-Cal), which she was forced to examine after her sister-in-law became a quadriplegic in an automobile accident. Many of her criticisms of the program, such as the harshness of the income and asset limits, won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with Medicaid policy.

In fact, Campbell’s outrage strikes me as naïve for a professor who teaches social welfare policy and her critique carries a worrisome undertone of middle-class entitlement. Disability advocates have long made the argument that Medicaid eligibility criteria traps people with disabilities in poverty, but Campbell only acknowledges this in passing. At one point in her essay, Campbell describes how a relative bought formula for the couple’s newborn baby and she writes, “I wondered what people who don’t have middle-class relatives do in a situation like this.” It’s really not that difficult to imagine the deprivations that people with disabilities without middle-class family members must endure, but Campbell seems shocked that this kind of thing goes on in America.

I get that most Vox readers don’t give much thought to disability policy and the article is meant to illustrate how such policy affects real families. But if Vox plans on exploring this topic further, it might be a good idea to get insights from the actual people with disabilities who live with the consequences of these policies on a daily basis.

 

Dec 022014
 

Stephen Hawking wants to play a villain in a future Bond movie. Of course, you know what this means. This means that I’m kicking off my Official Campaign to Be Stephen Hawking’s Henchman in As-Yet Undetermined James Bond Movie. I would be perfect as the guy who sits behind Hawking and glares menacingly at a bound and gagged Bond while Hawking provides a detailed explanation of his plans to destroy the Earth in a re-creation of the Big Bang. I would be willing to work for scale and call Hawking “Boss” if the script calls for it. I could even provide comic relief after Bond inevitably escapes and a furious Hawking instructs his pet cybernetically-enhanced gorilla to dispatch me.

It’s unlikely that anyone will make a (pretty good) movie about my life, so this may be my best shot at getting my name in IMDB. Anybody know a good agent?

Oct 222014
 

Ars Technica profiles the Uni, a tablet that is designed to translate American Sign Language into spoken English and vice versa. The startup company behind the Uni hopes that the device will help the deaf and hearing impaired communicate in a variety of everyday situations without relying on a human interpreter. For the Uni to achieve widespread adoption among the deaf community, it will need to overcome a high sticker price and a limited vocabulary. The vocabulary can be expanded through software updates, but price might be a more difficult issue to address (something that is true for a lot of assistive technology).

The Uni seems to rely on a combination of hardware and software to achieve its goals. As the technology on consumer tablets and phones improves, perhaps an app (or even the operating system) will be able to perform these functions. It might be a more cost-effective solution. In the meantime, let’s hope the Uni can get enough traction to continue development.

Sep 152014
 

Kanye West really doesn’t like it when people remain seated during his concerts. He is of the opinion that one must be standing to experience the full effect of the magic he is weaving onstage. If you don’t heed Kanye’s bidding to stand, you will suffer the consequences. Those consequences may include rendering Kanye unable to perform because he’s too busy cajoling you to stand up. Whether you have a legitimate reason for not standing is something that only Kanye is qualified to judge. Be prepared to present your “handicap pass” to Kanye for a thorough inspection. A follow-up interview with one of Kanye’s security personnel may be required to fully resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

Kanye only wants to lay down some truly mind-fucking beats for you. But he can’t do that if you’re just going to sit there like a jerk.

Sep 102014
 

The National Federation for the Blind is suing ride-sharing service Uber for discriminating against customers with disabilities. Several individuals allege that Uber drivers have refused to serve customers with service animals or have forced service animals to ride in the trunk. This seems like a pretty clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities, although Uber is trying to claim that it isn’t responsible for the actions of independent contractors. This lawsuit also raises some interesting questions about the “sharing economy” and its capacity to accommodate customers with disabilities. People with disabilities should be able to fully participate in this economy, but how do we ensure that private citizens–who are not employees-understand their obligations to provide reasonable accommodations?

Aug 072014
 

Governor Dayton is pushing state agencies to hire more people with disabilities through a recently signed executive order. It establishes a goal of having people with disabilities represent 7% of the state workforce by 2018 (up from the current figure of 3.2%). The Strib article notes that Minnesota has fallen behind neighboring states and the federal government in the hiring of people with disabilities.

This executive order signals good intentions from the Dayton administration, although I’m hesitant to predict what its real impact will be. People with disabilities continue to face myriad obstacles to employment including difficulties accessing transportation, job training, and health care. Any initiative to increase employment of people with disabilities must at least recognize these challenges and offer strategies for shaping appropriate accommodations.

The state has been a good employer to me. It has provided me the flexibility I need while giving me the opportunity to have a career and enjoy financial independence. I’m hopeful that this executive order will give other people with disabilities similar opportunities to realize their potential.

Aug 012014
 

Fellow gimp Ben Mattlin wrote a thoughtful Times op-ed piece about Justin Bieber, perceptions of disability, and playing the disability card. He notes that Bieber was recently photographed using a wheelchair at Disney World and suggests that this may be a sign that visible disabilities are losing some of their stigma. He then reminisces about the special treatment he received as a child because of his disability, like getting into movies for free. It’s a common life experience for those of us who grew up with a disability and like Mattlin, I now look back on those experiences with a degree of ambivalence. I definitely exploited my disability for my own ends as I was growing up, but I probably reinforced stereotypes about disability in the process.

I like to think that I’m a more enlightened person now; one who demands equal treatment and steadfastly refuses any preferential treatment rooted in pity or condescension. But if I’m honest with myself, I know that I might slip on occasion. I might accept a seat upgrade at a concert or the opportunity to avoid a line at an amusement park. Because sometimes a crip just wants a better sightline that isn’t full of legs and asses. Or because I just won’t feel like being SuperCrip, Defender of Virtuous Principles, at that particular moment.

Jul 172014
 

The news today is particularly awful, so let’s focus on something less miserable. I’ve blogged previously about Jillian Mercado, the fashion blogger with a disability who was featured in a Diesel ad campaign. Mercado may have to start referring to herself as a model/blogger because she’s now mugging for the Nordstrom catalog. It’s thrilling to see someone with a disability enjoy this kind of professional success, particularly in an industry that has is typically obsessed with traditional notions of beauty. I look forward to seeing her on a billboard in the near future.

And I love the boots, Jillian.

Jillian Mercado Nordstorm.jpg

Jul 162014
 

After much waiting and bureaucratic hoop-jumping, I drove home in my new Honda Odyssey earlier this week. Automotive technology has advanced considerably since 1999. My Caravan’s engine always made its presence known with a steady rumble, but I can barely hear the Odyssey’s engine. Everything is very sleek and digital and unobtrusive. It’s like commuting via the starship Enterprise. Even the modifications have a futuristic feel. With a single button on the key fob, the sliding door opens and the ramp deploys. The ramp is stowed within the van’s floor, so I no longer have to listen to it rattle beside me.

I’m on vacation next week. I believe I will spend it driving around the lakes and inviting random attractive women to join me.

Pictures will be forthcoming. Of the van, not the women. Unless they’re into that sort of thing.

Jun 252014
 

This short Times documentary about a couple–both of whom have muscular dystrophy–who fell in love and married is sweet and matter-of-fact. There’s just one problem: they are living in a Connecticut acute care hospital. Does Connecticut not have the resources to enable them to live together in the community? I understand that they both use ventilators, but this is 2014: people with ventilators living at home are not a rare species anymore. Of course, I don’t know what their specific circumstances are. They may choose to live at the hospital because they feel safer or because the quality of care is high. But I imagine it’s no simple matter for them to get out to a movie or restaurant. I hope somebody has at least discussed community living with them.